March 27, 2014


Description: A knife and sharpening sheath
Main Pitch: "The revolutionary knife that sharpens itself for life"
Main Offer: $14.99 for the Santoku knife, pairing knife & carving knife with sheaths
Bonus: Four steak knives with sheaths (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Likely to succeed

The benefits of having a sharp knife are clear, but that hasn't helped the many knife sharpeners that have been tested find success. Among the many failures, one type of sharpener rolled out. It was called Edge of Glory by Telebrands and Samurai Pro by SAS. But my impression is both items were mediocre retail sellers at best, and who knows what the overall CPOs ultimately looked like.

That said, knives have fared much better on DRTV (see AeroKnife and Yoshi Blade), and knife sets have a long and storied history in our industry. As a result, this one has a good shot. It certainly presents an excellent value proposition.

Shogun Steamer

Description: A microwave steamer
Main Pitch: "Enjoy all the flavors and healthy benefits [of steaming] from your microwave in just minutes"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one with recipe guide
Bonus: 2nd one with recipe guide (just pay P&H), Cut N Cup (free)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon
Prediction: On the fence

I'm conflicted about this category. Back when I reviewed the first version of this product, Magic Meal, I was convinced the microwave was dead. Since then, two microwave items made my True Top Spenders of 2013: Telebrands' Stone Wave (a name I just learned was 'borrowed' from Emson, which had a hit by the same name in 1998) and Ontel's Potato Express. Suddenly the microwave isn't looking so dead after all.

This is also a better positioning of the product (the "modern version of a timeless classic" angle has worked for Blue Moon before), and the pitch has more credibility. The Magic Meal focused on two-tier cooking, suggesting one could microwave spaghetti sauce and noodles in the same pot and have them both come out perfectly. Anyone who has ever heated spaghetti sauce in a microwave knows this is a ridiculous claim: The noodles would explode and then vaporize before the sauce even broke room temperature.

Also: Unlike the Stone Wave, which was apparently designed by anorexics for sad people who eat alone, this product can prepare enough food to feed a family. (Although the Stone Wave commercial solves that problem by mainly focusing on apps and desserts and also by making a clever pitch for multiple units.)

All of that said, I still have lingering doubts about the microwave I can't shake, so I'm unable to go beyond 50/50 on my prediction for this project.


Description: A lifting tool
Main Pitch: "Takes the bending and straining out of lifting"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

"End the bend" has never really worked as a DR pitch. Even items in this general category -- such as the late, great Billy Mays' Magic Carry from 2007 (No. 3 in this Weekly Round-Up) -- have failed.

The only item close to this one that had some success was Forearm Forklift, but as far as I can tell there is a key difference between that product and this one: Forearm Forklift helped people lift heavier weight than they normally could. With this item, it seems you'll still have to be able to pick up 50 pounds to lift 50 pounds.

Push 2.0

Description: A hose connector
Main Pitch: "Transforms your old, tired, outdoor faucet into a simple, push-button solution"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Bluewater
Prediction: On the fence

This is a cool item and a solid commercial. My only concern is seasonality, but that didn't stop Snap-2-O (from which this name was taken) from being a success.

Strapless Secret

Description: A strapless, backless bra
Main Pitch: "Coverage and security without sacrificing style"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in nude or black
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: On the fence

Telebrands' Natural Bra was a solid hit of the last decade. An attempt to bring the concept back with a new twist in 2010 flopped, but Tristar has apparently acquired the project and is trying again. It's called Beauty Cups. (My original review is here, and the Web site is here.)

Not sure if this should be considered a duel or what, but the Hutton-Miller commercial is definitely the better of the two. In any case, I like both products and think they have a shot at success, but I also have doubts about the viewer's ability to suspend disbelief and wonder about the availability of similar solutions.


Description: Orthotic insoles
Main Pitch: "Instantly make any high heel more comfortable"
Main Offer: $9.99 for three pairs
Bonus: None
Starring: Emma Supple
Marketer: Tristar
Prediction: Bomb

Beautiful commercial, excellent pitch, great offer. But as I explained again recently (see No. 5 in this Weekly Round-Up), this is a Siren category that has never produced a winner.

Several years ago, I was personally involved in the failure of an insole for high heels called Insolia. So I know of what I write.

March 20, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Bedder Abs. Pitch: "Get tight, firm abs from the comfort of your own bed." Comments: If you thought "Ab Lounge" was an oxymoron, this concept takes that talent for contradiction to a whole new level! I'd like to believe there's a limit to America's wishful thinking, but something tells me even this pitch won't reach it. [ss]
  3. Bath Bone. Pitch: "Wash and groom your dog without the mess or struggle." Comments: Amateur hour. This is an unexciting, utilitarian product that targets a segment of a segment -- i.e. not the best choice for DRTV. [ss]
  5. Big Button Remote. Pitch: "Large button remote control" is "perfect for seniors and the visual or memory impaired." Comments: The creative is amateurish and the target is too narrow, but I think the stand with the built-in remote finder is pretty neat. This could do well in certain catalogs. [ss]
  7. Bright Eyes Blanket. Pitch: "The super fun blanket with glow in the dark eyes." Comments: This is a cross between Snuggie for Kids and Glow Pets. It's possible kids will love it, but I didn't find it to be super-exciting. [ss]
  9. Olde Amish. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Cleans and protects in one easy step." Comments: This appears to be a 'fast fail,' which is interesting given Dutch Glow is in the top five of the Jordan Whitney right now, and Telebrands is never afraid of a competition. [ss]

SciMark Report from March Response

No Spill Chill

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

The items covered include: Telebrands' Blarney Charm [ss], Allstar/Lenfest's No Spill Chill [ss] and IdeaVillage's Easy Minder [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming April issue, I'll be covering the following:

Check out next month's issue to see what I have to say about these projects.

Response's New Product Pavilion

The Response Group, the organization that graciously prints my report in their magazine, has asked me to inform you about their upcoming New Product Pavilion at Response Expo. Here are the details:

Response will once again be showcasing the hottest products and the latest up-and-coming products from the best and biggest marketers in direct response in our New Product Pavilion located on the Expo Hall floor April 30 – May 1 in San Diego.

Our New Product Pavilion gives exhibitors, attendees and most importantly MEDIA the opportunity to see some of the biggest DRTV hits of recent times, as well as an opportunity to preview the hottest products of 2014 –- before they even debut on television.

Participating in our New Product Pavilion is easy: Simply submit three samples of each item you’d like to showcase to Response Magazine by April 18, 2014.

Participation is free of charge, and the online submission form is located here.

March 18, 2014

Big Boss Slice-A-Roo

Description: A slicer
Main Pitch: "Slice, shred and curl fruit and veggies in seconds"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H), Perfect Slicer
Marketer: Emson
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is essentially a deluxe version of Veggetti/Skinny Gourmet at twice the price. Given the crickets I'm hearing from the market on those cheaper items, it doesn't make a lot of sense to pursue this project. But again, Emson appears to operate on a different model than those who focus solely on CPOs.

To be fair to the product, it can do a lot more than its cheaper rivals. The problem is none of those uses seem very appealing. I don't think many people are eating curled apples, and the Tater Tornado treat didn't catch on when Sully tried it.

No, this is pretty much going to sell to people who want to make veggie pasta or stir fry -- that is, the same people who aren't buying Veggetti/Skinny Gourmet in sufficient quantities to make those campaigns successful.

As for the commercial, I'm not loving "Slice-A-Roo can do!" It's one of those forced rhymes I dislike and only serves to increase the cheese factor. Just because Tony Little got away with it ...

Sobakawa Huggy Body Pillow

Description: A body pillow
Main Pitch: "Caress your head, cradle your back and support your legs all at the same time"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $19.99
Bonus: None
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: National Express
Prediction: On the fence

Little more than a year ago, there were four DR pillows vying for space on retail shelves (see my review of Pleasure Pedic for details), creating a clear exception to my "only room for one" rule. Now, the pillow category is heating up once again: I'm seeing more tests every day. Will we see another big hit this year? Or maybe two or three?

It's hard to say as I don't know if "hit" has the same meaning in this category as in others. We certainly aren't talking Pocket Hose volumes here, but then prices in this category are also higher than normal. Indeed, this project is banking on twice the normal DR price being acceptable. Color me skeptical.

I also think not enough time has passed since everyone and their mother was trying to sell a pillow to try to revive the category ... Besides, isn't this just a really big Side Sleeper Pro?

Therma Sleek

Description: A thermal shirt
Main Pitch: "Keeps you warm without bulky layers"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one in black or white
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Prediction: On the fence

Only slimming undergarments appear to be a sure thing on DRTV. There have also been a few successes with undergarments that 'conceal cracks' (i.e. Ontel's Cami Secret and Allstar's Trendy Top), but a quick review shows more of these have been misses (e.g. Classy Covers, Classy Collar, Cayla's Cami).

This projects tests a new idea -- thermal undergarments -- and attempts to give the old "long johns" shirt a fashion upgrade. I suppose it could also be viewed as a poor person's Under Armour, but the marketing team wisely avoided the sports angle with this one (something the copper-garment people should have done as well).

From a 'problem solved' standpoint, the idea isn't terrible. Among men, the segment who work outdoors is fairly large. And women are always cold (indoors or out). That said, there is a definite seasonality here that is of concern, and I'm not convinced other solutions (e.g. the lowly zippered fleece) aren't sufficient to the need.

Point 'n Paint: Old Silver?

Current/Original Marketer: IdeaVillage
Original Hit Year: 2009 (No. 38 on the JW Annual)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

It was too soon to bring this project back when Paint Pad Pro made the attempt in August of 2012, and it is too soon now.

More to the point, it's not clear an "old silver" item can make a comeback, or that it should even be attempted. I have gone so far as to call it chasing "fool's gold." But when it's the original marketer, I suppose there's no reason not to try.

As always, I appreciate learning on other people's dime!

The Bucky Balls Story

Speaking of thought pieces, Inc. magazine has a fascinating piece this month titled: Bucky Balls vs. The United States of America. (HT: Ellen L.)

Despite being staunchly pro-entrepreneur and intellectually agreeing with his legal arguments, I found it hard to root for Mr. Zucker. Maybe that's because I'm also the father of three small children.

March 15, 2014

The Spotlight Effect

I don't often write thought pieces or recommend books. In fact, it has been three years since my last post of this kind ("The Delusion of Single Explanations"). But I recently came across something important that is directly applicable to our industry.

In the latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, Stephen Dubner interviews Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago and author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want (cover shown above).

In the interview, Professor Epley describes an experiment where undergraduates at his university were asked to put on a t-shirt with a "great big picture" of Barry Manilow on the chest, go into a room where other people were already filling out a questionnaire (arrive late), start filling out their questionnaire, then get up and leave suddenly.

Afterward, they were asked: "[H]ow many people in that room would be able to identify that it was Barry Manilow on your shirt?" Professor Epley explains the results (emphasis mine):

Whether [people were] proud of [the t-shirt] or embarrassed of it, they tended to think that lots of people would notice. In fact they thought about 50 percent of the people in the room would notice. Because [they] weren’t in there for a long time, [they] weren’t the center of attention ... People were busy on other things. But still, pretty high. The important comparison is not that, it’s how many people in the room actually did notice that it was Barry Manilow on [their] shirt ... [A]s far as we could tell, nobody was able to tell that it was Barry Manilow on [their] shirt ...

[O]ne thing that makes it hard to understand what others are thinking is that we tend to rely on our own mind perhaps a little bit too much when it’s not necessarily perfectly appropriate to do so. It may be a rational thing to do, but it still leads to inaccuracy ... And that’s just one of the many examples of ... egocentrism, our inherent focus on ourselves. You are always present when you are present. You’re always aware of yourself and your own thoughts and feeling when you’re out in the world, [and] that can sometimes lead to errors. This is one case where it will lead you to think that you’re noticed more often than you actually are.

This is called the "spotlight effect," a phrase coined by Epley's thesis advisor, Tom Gilovich. "That’s when you feel the spotlight is always shining on you, that for whatever reason people are paying attention to what you are doing," Dubner explains. "[And it] can really distort how we communicate with each other."

So what does this have to do with DR? That will become clearer in the next example from the Epley interview. Long story short, if you play "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen backward, you will probably hear -- nothing. Just gobbledygook. But if I tell you to listen for the phrase "it's fun to smoke marijuana" and play it again, you will likely hear that phrase. How is that spotlight effect? Here's Professor Epley again:

[W]hat we’ve done there is we’ve changed your own perspective on that song in a way that makes it hard for you to appreciate how somebody else ... will interpret that [song] ... [W]hen I was in graduate school some years ago, I played people those songs, those backmasked messages. One group was uninformed; they hadn’t been told what to listen for. The other group was told what to listen for, and they heard [the hidden phrase] ... So one group were novices the other group were experts.

[We] then had them predict what percentage of people who [were] told nothing about the clip would be able to hear those words in that song. And what we found was that when you ... were an expert on the song ... you thought a much higher percentage of people would be able to hear that backmasked message ... than when you knew nothing about [it], when you thought it was gibberish ...

[T]he egocentrism part is that you assume that other people’s perspectives will match your own ... You use your own as a guide. And this is a problem more generally out in the world of understanding how other people evaluate us ... When we put people in experiments, for instance, and we ... take a picture of them, and we asked them to predict how attractive they will be rated by a member of the opposite sex on a scale from zero to 10, we find that there’s virtually no correlation between how people predict they’ll be rated on the basis of this picture and how they’re actually rated on the basis of this picture.

[T]he reason is that you’re an expert about yourself. And so you, when you look at a picture of yourself, you look at every fine-grain detail. You can notice that this curl is slightly out of place, and your smile is a bit weird there. And are they really supposed to see my undershirt under the collar there? Is that right? You notice all of these fine-grained details about yourself just as an expert would. An expert is able to dial in a microscope on the problem and notice all kinds of nuances and subtleties that others can’t. Observers, just the random person isn’t an expert on you, and that creates a gap that makes it hard to know what somebody else thinks of you.

Replace the word "you" with the phrase "your commercial," and you'll see the takeaway for DR practitioners. In my development from DR novice to DR expert, one of the many revelations I had was this: Viewers at home don't see most of what we see when we watch our commercials. It's a version of the spotlight effect. We may strongly believe that Joe Blow or Jane Doe will notice a certain "fine-grain detail" -- that continuity error, that poor wardrobe choice or that blemish on the product -- but they won't. In fact, they won't notice things that 100% of company executives and staff sitting it a conference room together would notice. Why? Because that's a group of informed experts with a collective form of egocentrism.

The way I help myself and others avoid this pitfall is to ask continually: "How much will the proposed change lower our CPO?" If an educated guess can't be expressed in tens of dollars, the change is a waste of time and resources. An egocentric self-indulgence.

Some have contested this point, arguing that lots of small changes (what I call "jewelry work") can add up to big impacts. But in light of the research above, that idea is clearly flawed. If no one is going to notice the giant "Barry Manilow" in your spot, they certainly won't notice the "curls" and "undershirts." Put another way, 50 (small changes) times zero (dollars of impact on your CPO) equals zero.

The other counter-argument I hear a lot amounts to 'subliminal impact.' It's like arguing that wearing a Barry Manilow t-shirt will give people the urge to listen to his music. They don't consciously process the t-shirt, but unconsciously Manilow invades their brain.

Applied to commercials, this argument seems to make sense. But think about how highly subjective the resulting process will end up being. Someone has to decide which aspects of the commercial have the greatest subliminal impact on viewers. It isn't like we hook people up to fMRI machines (so-called neuromarketing) to figure that out. Instead, we tend to rely on the person with the strongest opinions ... and that person is also probably most susceptible to the type of distorted thinking described above.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with the group and post a comment.

March 13, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

  1. EZ Clasp. Marketer: SAS Group. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The magnetic jewelry clasp that attaches to any necklace instantly." Comments: This is another attempt to bring back IdeaVillage's Clever Clasp. I wrote about the first attempt just last week. Old Gold duels are rare, but they happen. The two on my new Old Gold Tracker (which was inspired by that post) are Schticky/Sticky Buddy and Perfect Pancake/Flip Jack. Both were roll-outs, but I suspect both were fueled by the competition as much as consumer response. Let's see what happens here. [ss]
  3. Cabinet Brite. Pitch: "The kitchen cabinet restorer that brings your kitchen back to model-home new in no time." Comments: This has been a hit or miss category -- mostly miss. That said, Dutch Glow is sitting atop the Greensheet at this writing, so best-case scenario this project will have strong competition from someone with a big headstart. [ss]
  5. Cover Me Cami. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "It covers the three B's with ease: Your bust, your belly, your backside." Comments: Covering cracks has been a winning strategy on DRTV, but I think it's too soon after Allstar's Trendy Top for this to be a hit. [ss]
  7. Nebraska Slimdown. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Learn the weight-loss secret that helped thousands." Comments: A 'fast fail.' I'm sure the name didn't help: Nebraska is one of the last places I would associate with the word "slim." [ss]
  9. Screen Egg. Pitch: "The amazing dual-action screen cleaner that will effectively and easily clean all your favorite devices." Comments: I don't write "duel" features about lame items that are sure to bomb quickly and disappear forever. But if I did, this one would be pitted against Gwee (No. 3 in last week's round-up). I guess the one good thing about simultaneous tests of a terrible idea is the reason for failure will be unquestionable. [ss]
  11. Shed Off. Pitch: "The amazing grooming tool that lets you vacuum hair straight from your pet." Comments: Another 'fast fail.' I chased a similar item for years, but (luckily, it would seem) it failed in the Web-test phase. [ss]
  13. Shock Relief. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Soothe pain away with shock relief electrotherapy." Comments: Not sure where this one was going but, considering the claims, it's probably a blessing it was a 'fast fail.' [ss]

In the News

Former DRTV project Bambooee is now a Shark-funded business.

Via Yahoo! Small Business Advisor:

By the time Noam and Irene Krasniansky’s Shark Tank pitch aired on ABC on Friday, February 28th, their reusable paper-towel product, Bambooee, was already available in northern California Costco stores, several Whole Foods stores, and thousands of natural food shops nationwide ...

[H]elp from the Sharks, they say, could help 'take Bambooee to the next level.' Noam tells Yahoo! Small Business that he and his wife auditioned with 50,000 other entrepreneurs for a spot on Shark Tank because: 'We’re not a large corporation with a lot of money, connections, and wherewithal for distribution. This is an innovative idea and we wanted it to grow quickly, so we needed the right partner who would understand our vision, not cut our wings, and help with distribution so that more people will have access to the product.'

You can read the full article here. My thanks to blogger Adrienne Burke for helping me learn more about the mysterious Noam, although I still can't quite place that accent ...

More to the point: Kudos to the Krasnianskys. Their item obviously didn't work as a DRTV project (else they wouldn't have needed to get in bed with Sharks), but they persisted and found success anyway. It's a positive case study in something I often tell newbies who ask me for DR help: If it fails on TV, that doesn't mean it won't sell somewhere else. It just means our particular customer didn't like it.

March 10, 2014

The True Top Spenders of 2013

The peer review period is over. Here are the True Top Spenders for 2013:

(Click to see the full list)

And now, in a repeat of last year, here are the big winners ...

True Top Marketer: Telebrands

Telebrands takes the top spot again with nine roll-outs on the list. That's two less than last year, but no less impressive. Telebrands also had the biggest hit of the year by far in Pocket Hose. Congratulations to AJ and the Telebrands team. They have become quite the hit machine!

In second place: Allstar, a they were a very close second. In fact, two of Telebrands' hits were actually carried over from last year (Orgreenic, Olde Brooklyn Lantern) while only one of Allstar's hits was (Forever Comfy). So in one way this contest could be considered a tie. My hat is off to both marketers for an impressive year.

Third place is equally interesting. Technically, I don't count companies that partner to roll out, so third place should go to Hampton with five hits on the list. However, three of those hits came from Lenfest (My Spy Birdhouse, Wax Vac & Wraptastic), which also had three hits with Allstar (Cat's Meow, Ruggies & Zoomies).

That's right: Lenfest has SIX hits to its credit in 2013, one more than Hampton and enough to make the case that they should take the No. 3 spot. Congratulations to all the marketers mentioned, but a special congratulations to Lenfest!

True Top Producer: Concepts TV

Concepts tops the list for the second year in a row with six roll-outs for the year. Like last year for Telebrands, the timing couldn't be better as Concepts just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Three decades and the hits just keep coming! Congratulations to Collette and her awesome team.

Meanwhile, Hutton-Miller jumped up considerably this year to take second place. Actually, much like Allstar, they missed tying for first by a single hit, and if you discount roll-outs that appeared on the 2012 list, they actually tied for first as well. (The Concepts repeat was Cafe Cup.) Well done!

Rounding out the list at third is The Schwartz Group with four hits, just one away from second and two away from first, so it was a really close race this year. Kudos to them for another strong showing.

Finally, the two companies that tied for fourth, Bluewater and Kerrmercials, also deserve honorable mentions because they had three hits each. Bluewater is a newer name that has been taking the industry by storm and Kerrmercials, although not a new name, is suddenly red hot again. Congratulations to both!


This year, instead of writing about the predictions I got right or calculating my overall track record as a way of looking good, I am going to get right to eating humble pie. Here are the True Top hits I got wrong (in some cases, really wrong):

1. Potato Express. 'The microwave is dead,' the know-it-all blogger declared. Then came this item and the next one, and suddenly that old 1980s invention was looking pretty lively. Oops! To be honest, I still don't get why. I did write that if "potatoes are like eggs" then "all bets are off." Perhaps that explains it?

2. Stone Wave. This one makes even less sense to me, which is scary because I have to consider the possibility that I may not actually know everything there is to know about DRTV ... Joking aside, I try to learn from items that surprise me, but this one still has me scratching my head.

3. Cat's Meow. An outlier, but a hit nonetheless. My only consolation will be watching 12 other cat toys fail as marketers demonstrate this isn't really a category ... Actually, that will be sad.

4. Side Socket. The last three projects and this one have something in common: They defied category history to find success. What I've learned is to be more cautious in discounting a category. Sometimes, there isn't enough evidence to warrant it. Other times, there IS enough evidence and discipline has to win out. The best marketers are the ones who can tell the difference.

5. Ice Cream Magic. I was guessing when I made the prediction for this one and admitted as much, but I still made the wrong call. It seems Slushy Magic paved the way for at least two other followers (this project and Squeezy Freezy).

6. Perfect Polly. Another Kerrmercials DRTV hit I got wrong. I hear it tanked at retail, but fair is fair and I was wrong.

7. Flex-Able Hose. This was a three-way duel where the two other players had significant advantages (first mover, retail dominance), so I remain surprised and impressed that Tristar made the list.

8. AeroKnife. This is one of several Telebrands items that disappeared and then re-appeared months later as a roll-out. I don't know for sure what that means, so I'm listing it here and taking the hit.

There are a few others for which I didn't make official predictions, but I definitely didn't like them. I've already mentioned Wax Vac, my worst fail of the year. I should also mention MSA 30X. I was super-negative in my Weekly Round-Up comments (see No. 9), and obviously super-wrong as well.

I think that's it. Let me know if I forgot any.

Telebrands Round-Up

One reason Telebrands is the True Top Marketer of 2013: They test more projects than any other marketer. So many that, in recent weeks, I've collected enough new tests that I can dedicate another round-up just to them ...

Blingee Bands

Description: Decorative hair bands
Main Pitch: "Like jewelry for your hair"
Main Offer: $10 for 3 bands, 3 headbands and 6 charms
Bonus: 6 more charms, guidebook and carrying case (just pay a separate fee)
Prediction: On the fence

Hair is a 1 in 50 category, but it is hard to predict what will appeal to the emerging teen/tween girls market.

Bullseye Potty Stone

Description: A pet potty training aid
Main Pitch: "Unique scent will draw your dog to it like a magnet"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Prediction: Likely to succeed

An item similar to this one has been a strong seller in catalogs for years, and I have always liked the pitch. This problem is high on the problem scale for dog owners, and other projects have found success by solving it (e.g. Potty Patch).

Interestingly, Telebrands is marketing three pet potty products at the moment (Bullseye Pee Pad and Repeat Potty Pad are the other two).

Hot Seat

Description: A seat warmer for cars
Main Pitch: "Gets you warm and toasty in seconds"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Multi-plug adapter (just pay a separate fee)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is one of those items I have been asked to consider multiple times throughout my career. In every case, I've reached the same conclusion: too seasonal and too much of a segment (people with cars that don't already have this feature).

I always appreciate the opportunity to find out if I was wrong about an item on someone else's dime. Of course, if it's a hit I will have to deal with the pain of a missed opportunity!

Teddy Tanks

Description: A stuffed animal and fish tank
Producer: As Seen on Productions
Main Pitch: "Two types of fun in one"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Prediction: On the fence

The plush trend continues to deliver winners, so it's hard to say what will work and what won't. The Amazing Tank Website is still live, so that might be a good sign for this project.

Up & Under Doggy Steps

Description: Pet steps
Main Pitch: "Pop up when and where you need them, and then fold and store under anything when you don't"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one and Pet Rider (just pay a separate fee)
Prediction: On the fence

This is a classic example of 'Old Gold' with a new twist. The original hit was Doggy Steps, which was No. 40 on the JW Annual for 2006. This is a more substantial version that collapses and is therefore easier to store and carry. It's also $19.99 instead of $39.99, which is probably what doomed Telebrands last attempt to bring this solution back.

March 09, 2014

Yes! by Finishing Touch

Description: A hair remover
Main Pitch: "Breakthrough sensa-light technology ... removes unwanted hair with no pain and no irritation"
Main Offer: $29.99 for one
Bonus: Travel case (free)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon
Prediction: On the fence

This is a value-priced version of no!no! To take on the double negative, IdeaVillage is using a single positive and their flagship brand. I think that strategy is risky for the brand but could very well generate the sales required to succeed.

On the first point, let's consider the rarity that is Finishing Touch. In our business, items that sell consistently well for 11 years are about as common as unicorns. The only explanation is that the product has achieved nirvana and become a real brand, something that is only possible with items of the best quality and the highest customer satisfaction. Which leads me to my second point ...

I'm not sure if a no!no! can actually do what it claims to do, but I am highly skeptical -- and that's with a $250 product. The chances that this $30 version will perform well enough to satisfy customers are slim and none, and slim just left town. That means the brand takes a hit, possibly a fatal one, if this project rolls out.

Of course, it's also possible this project will fail quickly for credibility reasons (i.e. without the high price, disbelief cannot be sufficiently suspended). If that happens, my concerns not being an issue will be the silver lining.

As for the commercial, I have to give credit to Blue Moon once again for creating and perfecting a unique testimonial technique that works great for just about any female-friendly product.

Neckline Slimmer: Old Gold?

Current/Original Marketer: SAS Group
Original Hit Year: 2009 (No. 24 on the JW Annual)
Prediction: On the fence

My original review of this item was overwhelmingly positive, and then it made the Top 25 that year, so this attempt has a lot going for it. My only reservation is the timing. This is a gimmicky item, and my gut says it will take longer than five years for America to forgot about the original and find the item new and unique again.

Incidentally, I'm 95% sure this is the original commercial, which holds up well.

Finally, I have added this project to my Old Gold Tracker, which now lists 46 attempts and counting ...

March 07, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

Old Gold? Nope.

  1. InstaBrites. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: NexTV. Pitch: "Super-bright LED light goes on automatically when you open and off when you close." Comments: If not for the 'fast fail,' this would have been another "Old Gold?" feature. (I did add it to my list.) The original was Allstar's Quik Brite, and it was No. 77 on the JW Annual for 2006. Come to think of it, that's probably not a high enough JW rank to warrant an attempt to bring it back. [ss]
  3. Glowy Guardian. Marketer: Hampton. Pitch: "The solar-powered garden light that's an amazing, hand-crafted replica of the majestic, white snowy owl." Comments: Another 'fast fail.' Strikes me as a total flyer, so I'm not surprised. (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  5. Gwee. Pitch: "Keep your electronic devices sparkling clean and smudge-free." Comments: Bad category, crowded category, low on the problem scale. This one should never have made it past the evaluation phase. [ss]
  7. Shelf Under. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Monte-Brooks. Pitch: "The instant shelf that doubles your cabinet space." Comments: Anything that creates extra space has a shot on DRTV, but my impression is that similar solutions haven't done well. Allstar's Handy Shelf, which I liked, is one example that comes to mind. [ss]
  9. Walk Right Insoles. Pitch: "Liquid filled massaging insoles." Comments: No insole has ever worked on short-form DRTV, no matter how good the product (see Impact Gel). Resist the call of the Siren! [ss]

Mike Ackerman, RIP

For those who haven't already heard, Mike Ackerman passed away earlier this year. He was 66.

Response magazine has the obituary. He is appropriately lauded as a "founding father" of the industry and "one of kind." But I think Seymour Shapiro put it best: "He was ... the Don Rickles of DRTV.”

Our belated condolences to the Ackerman family.

Ask the Expert (3)

Another installment of my DRTV advice column is now live on the blog. The question I answer this time: "What's the deal with Web testing?"

Click here to read my answer.

SciMark Report from February Response

Flex Shot

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

The items covered include: Phil Swift's Flex Shot [ss], National Express's Bone Appetit [ss] and Avento's Wipe New Tires [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming March issue, I'll be covering the following:

Check out the new issue to see what I have to say about these projects.

March 05, 2014

Old Gold: A Closer Look

(Click to see the full list)

My quick analysis yesterday of the "Old Gold" posts on this blog caused me to start thinking (always dangerous) and eventually prompted me to take a much closer look at the track record for such items. The analysis I link to above is the result. I found it quite edifying, and I trust you will as well.

One key takeaway: If you eliminate tests that are "TBD" and only count once, taking the most positive result, items that were re-tried multiple times (e.g. Magic Lint Roller, tried five times!), the record for Old Gold items is 5 for 24. That amounts to a 1 in 5 hit rate, which is twice as good as I guessed it would be and not so mediocre after all.

(Update: Thanks to a few emails from friends, I have since added four more items to the list, which improves the record to 6 for 24 -- a 1 in 4 hit rate.)

On a side note, I found several other items on this blog that were technically "Old Gold" but had enough of a twist not to include on my list. Perhaps some other time I will study those items and evaluate that related strategy for generating hits.

March 04, 2014

Copper Hands

Description: Copper-infused compression gloves
Main Pitch: "Improved circulation, soothing comfort and support for the joints and muscles in your fingers and hands"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is third copper-infused garment I've noted, and the third marketer to enter the fray following IdeaVillage's Copper Flex and Tristar's Copper Wear. Although also a compression garment, the product and pitch are quite different than the other two, which were more sports-focused and targeted the knees and elbows. Interestingly, this is also an improved version of an item Telebrands already tried under the name Miracle Hands.

Focusing on hand pain and targeting an older demographic makes a lot more sense for DR, so I think this project has the best chance of success to date. But I also think the copper pitch, in general, is low on credibility and hard for people to understand.

When I first started noticing these projects, I couldn't understand why everyone was chasing the concept. Then I saw Tommie Copper on the infomercial charts. (Amusingly, the clip I linked to has Montel Williams demonstrating copper-infused sleeves but talking about copper-infused gloves the company has yet to release).

Apparently, Tommie Copper has been running a ton of short form as well since their 120 almost made my True Top Spenders list for 2013. The higher price points and long form starting point had kept them off my radar, but now I see why certain quarters are so interested. And yet ... The claims made in the original infomercial and the claims that need to be made in all of the short-form commercials seem highly risky to me. I'd be surprised if some action weren't taken to modify them.

Clever Clasp: Old Gold?

New Name: Perfect Clasp
Original Hit Year: 2007 (No. 20 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: IdeaVillage
Prediction: On the fence

I recall Clever Clasp being a modest hit, not a blockbuster. But it does solve a real problem for an aging population that has only gotten older since 2007. Six years is also within the range of possibility for a Phoenix to rise again, so this one has a decent shot.

I'm on the fence because this is my 17th "Old Gold" post and, insofar as this has been a record of attempts, the results are pretty mediocre. Here's a recap:

  1. Moving Men: Bomb. But a similar item, EZ Moves, became a hit.
  2. Sifteroo/Quicksand: Bomb. But a similar item, Sift 'N Toss (see No. 8 in this Weekly Round-Up) became a hit.
  3. Turbie Twist: Bomb. But just on TV. It is still selling in select retailers.
  4. DiDi Seven: Bomb.
  5. Shelf Master: Bomb.
  6. White Light: Bomb.
  7. Insta Bulb/Stick Up Bulb: Hit! Appeared on my True Top Spenders of 2012.
  8. Caulk Fast/Pro Seal: Bomb.
  9. Bacon Wave: Hit! This one barely missed my True Top Spenders of 2013.
  10. Rocket Tops: Bomb. Site is down.
  11. Citrus Express: Site is still live, but it's not looking good.
  12. Tornado Can Opener/One Touch Can Opener: Site is still live, but it's not looking good.
  13. Fresh Mex Express/Smart Chopper: Site is still live, but I'm pretty sure it was a bomb.
  14. Pastafina/Pasta Express: TBD
  15. Scratch 911/Lens Doctor: TBD
  16. Repeat Potty Pad/Potty Patch: TBD

So there you have it: Two hits out of the bunch. When all results are in, I think this will probably shake out to be a 1 in 10 hit rate for Old Gold items. That's decent but nothing to get excited about, and I think the strength of the hits also needs to be considered. I don't recall either item being really big at retail.

That said, I probably missed a few examples that deserve to be included in this analysis. One (two, really) that immediately springs to mind is Perfect Pancake. The fact that the item was a revival of a 10-year-old hit got lost in the duel with Telebrands' Flip Jack. But it made my 2013 mid-year list, and Telebrands' version (which was actually closer to the original) made both the mid-year and final lists.

Can you think of any other projects, successful or not, that should be included in this analysis? If so, post a comment.

March 03, 2014

Bell + Howell Super Nova Lantern

Description: An LED lantern
Main Pitch: "The unique, super-charged lantern that's so much more"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The industry's reaction to the success of Olde Brooklyn Lantern has been sadly predictable: Everyone has tried their own version of an LED lantern, hoping they would be the one to break the rules (i.e. there's only room for one and the Phoenix takes years to rise again).

Here's a list of seven attempts I have noted (and these are just the lanterns):

  1. Catch-A-Light (Jan 2014)
  2. Handy Lantern (Dec 2013)
  3. Sun Genie (Dec 2013)
  4. Liberty Lantern (Aug 2013)
  5. Pocket Lantern (Aug 2013)
  6. London Railroad Lantern (March 2013)
  7. Maxini (Oct 2012)

Full disclosure: I was involved with one of the above projects (Maxini), so I am not immune to the Siren's allure. However, I was also involved with Life Lantern (No. 5 in this Weekly Round-Up), the first LED lantern to be tried on TV, so perhaps I can be excused for having trouble letting go.

My second experiment in this general category (EverLight in Dec 2013) helps answer the "but it's different!" objection. Emson's item breaks apart into two flashlights and has a built-in compass. EverLight was an emergency light with lantern-like properties, task light and night light all in one. That significant difference didn't matter, and it is unlikely to matter here, either.

Interestingly, Telebrands itself tested two of the items listed above (Pocket Lantern, London Railroad Lantern), so it seems no one is immune!

Power Up

Description: A portable device charger
Main Pitch: "Quickly and easily recharge your cell phone without an outlet"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one (silver or black)
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This has become another Siren product, one that I'm surprised to see marketers keep chasing. Perhaps the roll-out of the Bell + Howell Solar Charger threw people off, but Emson rolls out a lot of products that have failed multiple times before. It appears to be some sort of brand/retail strategy.

Among those who continue to value CPOs above other considerations, the history is discouraging. Telebrands, for example, has tested two phone chargers (Finger Charger, Plug Purse) with no signs of life. In general, the 'device accessories' category has been a big dud and is now on my Bad Categories list.

As for the commercial, the opening sounded really familiar to me ... Turns out it's the same opening as Speed Out with the copy changed to fit. Self-plagiarism isn't a crime (or an ethics breach), and the consumer probably won't notice or care, so I see no problem with it. Just a little strange is all.

(Update: I originally reported the producer of this commercial was Infomercials Inc. It turns out that Infomercials Inc. did not produce this commercial, so it was not self-plagiarism after all. It was just plagiarism! This is the second time I have caught this sort of thing in as many weeks. Unless there is a back story here I don't know about, whoever wrote this commercial should hang his/her head in shame.)

Neck Brite

Description: A neck pillow & task light combined
Main Pitch: "Relax your neck and support your vision anywhere, any time"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one (choice of 5 colors)
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is the Hug Light pitch with an added twist. But adding that twist limits the usefulness of the product. Some of the demos end up looking silly because the pillow aspect is clearly unnecessary.

More to the point, Hug Light became a Siren item that never really took off, and a better version tried later (see No. 3 in this Weekly Round-Up) also flopped. For that reason, I don't think this project is going anywhere.